Monday, August 22, 2016

Wisconsin Breakfast Stops

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- AM Eats in America's Dairyland

I've long been a proponent of the Wisconsin food and drink scene. They have their very own style and it involves lots of not so good for you things. They dont do veggie dogs, they do brats. The salads here are accompanied by 4 or 5 other relish condiments and come with about a cups worth of dressing. Wisconsin does all of the All-American things really well. This includes breakfast. No matter where you are in the state there's always a good breakfast spot nearby. Here's five to try.

The Coffee Pot 

The towns of both Kenosha and Racine offer us Chicagoan's some pretty good food options for when we're driving thru. If you ever find yourself going North on 94 and want something to eat in downtown Kenosha than the Coffee Pot is a spot you should check out. It's a great breakfast stop.

Kenosha, WI

Breakfast was at the Coffee Pot which won out over Frank's due to a wait. We were able to snag some seats at the counter and having heard some good (and bad) things about their Corned Beef Hash I was ready to try that. She went with half of a "perk-o-lator" which is basically the same thing as a garbage plate down the street at Frank's. Egg's, sausage, onions, peppers, hash browns and cheese all thrown together into one. The large which I've had before is massive, a half order with their top notch made in house toast will be more than enough.

Perk-o-later Plate (1/2 order)

I had the perk plate last time I was here and it's a signature sconnie style breakfast that will not let you leave hungry. I like it although I'm not sure it's better than Frank's version aka a "Garbage Plate". A taste off might have to happen. The CBH was pretty good. I didn't think it was top notch but the fact that it was homemade makes it comforting but they could of used a little more corned beef. The beef to potato ratio was off. But that toasted homemade bread which is given a healthy dose of butter is really, really good. Breakfast sandwich with that bread next time. It's so money. 

Corned Beef Hash Breakfast

Jo's Cafe

I'd known about Jo's Cafe in the Brew City for some time since it's featured over on roadfood. But despite countless trips to Milwaukee over the years I had never been to Jo's until now. I spent a few days up there doing some things and opted not to stop at the Coffee Pot in Kenosha while en route choosing instead to start my day at Jo's and see what was up.

Milwaukee, WI

From the outside Jo's as you can see is a real no frills type of place. I got the feeling that everyone in there was a local regular as both the waitress and the man behind the grill whom I believe was Jo chatted it up with those coming in to dine and others taking orders to go. Its small inside with there being a few tables which were taken by local families and a counter with maybe eight seats right in front of where all the action takes place. It felt a little like Moon's up in there. 

The view from the counter

Jo's is all about the home cooking and watching him work the grill you can see he's a pro. I was impressed with how he used every last inch of space both on the griddle and in terms of storing stuff. The fresh baked buns for burgers and breakfast sandwiches were really tempting me to go one of those ways as was the daily special spaghetti plate. I usually wouldn't think I'd be interested in eating spaghetti at 10:30 in the morn but the plates they were bringing out for others smelled great. I went with their signature dish the Hoppel Poppel (or is it hoffel poffel?) which is also a signature breakfast dish of the city served elsewhere. At Jo's they take big hunks of potato browned with onions, and add scrambled eggs and chunks of spicy salami with cheese on top if you want. Very comforting and VERY filling. It's definitely a sconnie style breakfast no doubt about that. I'd go back.

Hoppel Poppel for Breakfast

Harry's Diner

I had breakfast at the locally loved Harry's Diner in the Bratwurst Capitol of the World recently and enjoyed my visit. Upon rolling up you'll immediately notice the reflecting silver exterior of this 1950's style diner.

Sheboygan, WI

The inside of the space isn't as charming as the outside but they do serve beer so this is a popular stop for folks looking for breakfast and booze. Quite a few people were dining in on this visit and all the ladies working the tables were running around making sure it was going smooth as the manager tended to the cash register near the entrance. I don't think this place has been around since the 50's but they did a good job of making it feel that way.

a peek inside

Harry's is only open until 3p each day (Closed Mondays) so most people are here for breakfast though they do have a lunch portion to their menu too. I'd heard good things about their pancakes and in particular the potato ones so I knew going in I'd be trying those, it was just a matter of seeing if there was some sort of combo that included some of Sheboygan's finest encased meat to go with it. Lucky me they had a potato pancake served with bratwurst and two eggs done your way platter for $8.50. The pancake comes with your choice of apple sauce or sour cream and I'm a fan of the latter so I went with that. Excellent recipe. This was a thicker well minced blend with plenty of diced onion inside. Of course the split brat to go with it was what you expect from the town that makes the best.

Potato Pancake, Bratwurst and Eggs for Breakfast

Mickie's Dairy Bar  

If you attended the University of Wisconsin you know all about the local icon that is Mickie's. Chances are even if you didn't go there but been to Madison you know about it. The town favorite has been a student hang out since it first opened in 1946. To this day it feels like the 1950's on the inside.

 Madison, WI

Mickie's gained much if it's cult following with the sheer size of it's meals. It's a place that you can fill up past full and walk out having spent about $10. Thus it's favorite for everyone from newly arrived freshmen to the offensive line on the football team as well as longtime residents of the city. It's most always packed and that's because there's always groups of friends eating inside. The menu boasts all the classics you'd expect to find at a popular breakfast stop as well as the typical lunches.

A Peek Inside (menus old and current)

While everyone has their favorites there are some things that Mickie's will always be remembered for. First and foremost, aside from the size of each plate, is the corn cakes. These massive cousins to the pancake taste just like piping hot cornbread. When smeared with butter they really are delicious. Unless you're starting at right tackle for the Badgers this upcoming season I see no reason you need the regular order of two but at just $1 less for one you may want to bring home breakfast for the next few days. What's great about group dining at Mickie's is you get to eat these and something else.

Mickie's Famous Corn Cakes 

Other popular items include the scrambler which is pretty much a little bit of everything mixed in with what I think was four, maybe five eggs, something ridiculous that only a college kid fresh off a 15 hour library binge followed by bong hits could enjoy. Something commonly on special is the pork chops with eggs. That's what I got on my most recent visit in this past summer. The pork chops have always been cooked until well done but when chopped up into little bits and mixed with the potatoes and eggs this is a very good, and of course filling, breakfast.

 Pork Chop and Eggs

Delta Diner

I spent some time up in Bayfield and as always did a little research on where to eat while en route. Somewhere along the line I came up with a rec for the Delta Diner which is far, far north. It's about 20 minutes SW of Ashland which sits on Lake Superior. If there were ever a place I ate at that sits in the middle of nowhere this would be it to date. Surrounded by lakes and a few gravel rocked roads with packs of wild turkeys along them.

Mason, WI

First off if you look this place up on google, theres like six different towns they say it's in. My GPS was no help at all as it wanted us to turn down a narrow snowmobile/ATV path that would of wrecked the bottom of my car. But if you're lucky enough to have a signal on your cell phone (I didn't, she did) then google maps will get you there. But you'll go down unpaved roads for about 10 miles and wonder with each passing minute whether you're going around in circles en route to nowhere. In the end though, it's all worth it.

A feel of the East Coast hidden in the Northwoods of Wisconsin

The Delta Diner was born in 2004 and if you want the entire story about how it was born and became about you can check their website HERE. The owners decided to restore what they were told is an old 1940's Silk City Diner. They wanted to put the diner in the locally historic site of the old Delta General Store which is written about in "Growing up in a Country Store: Memories and History of Delta and Ino, Wisconsin " According to that book the town and the general store came about at the same time in 1924.

Views from the counter

I'd urge all to read the link from their website about the story of how this diner came about and the history of the land it stands on. To try and sum it up in a few quotes though. "Having an authentic diner was very important to us"

"In early 2003 we contracted for a “frame-up” restoration of a 1940 Silk City Diner, due for completion in the fall of that year"

"The Delta Diner was about 90% complete in the middle of October of 2003. Living in far Northern Wisconsin we were facing a dilemma...The restorer agreed to ship the diner for completion on site so that we could complete excavation and concrete work prior to the ground freezing. In the end we cut it close, but got it done! It was quite a sight seeing the Delta Diner coming down Bayfield County Highway H in one piece on a semi-trailer"

"We expected that our chapter to the story of the “Delta Diner” would take many years to develop. Many ingredients contribute to the story of a diner. The building, its location and possible past locations, the characters that make up its customer base, the owner or owners, and its eclectic staff all paint the picture of a diner. It can take many years to have an intriguing story unfold. Without knowing it, our diner may have come prepackaged with intrigue"

"Where did the Delta Diner come from? Where did it operate prior to being abandoned “in a field somewhere in New York?” What can the identification tag on the original frame (if still on the frame) tell us about our diner? What did it look like when it was removed from the field? These are questions that can only be answered by our restorer. While we were provided a brief verbal version of our diner’s history, the promised written and photographic record has not been delivered. We have a contract that states we purchased a “restored 1940 Silk City Diner”. However, despite our efforts to obtain verification, we have yet to receive it."

A peek inside from the front/back

So to this day they dont know the exact history of what's supposed to be an old real deal restored Silk City Diner adding to the intrigue of this place. I'm not a diner expert but if this is indeed a rebuild of an original it's a damn fine copycat job. They try to make the experience as authentic as possible so this includes no menus. Everything available is on display and when your waitress comes to take your order she'll explain what EVERYTHING on it is. Her description of the Norwegian pancakes was like that of a big money making saleswoman so she had me sold on those which came recommended cooked with chopped jalapenos inside.

Norwegian Pancakes with chopped Jalapenos

Pancakes ala Norwegian are a larger more thin and airy type of pancake, similar to crepes. These were served with bacon from a local butcher in Ashland that was really thick and full of porky flavor along with a sprinkling of powered sugar and lemons. The chopped jalapenos inside worked really well. Our waitress was dead on with that one. The item I had read people praising was their PBLT which is a BLT with a piece of fried yellow lake perch on top. This too was very good. Served on locally sourced bread from the Ashland Baking Company with fresh in season tomatoes and that same great bacon, it made for a really tasty brunch paired with the pancakes.

PBLT Sandwich

I thought the food was great and even though they may not have much history as of today, you can see/feel that they're well on their way. Whether or not the restored diner was a real one or a restoration of a restoration it had that charm both from the atmosphere and the staff and also great food. One thing that caught my eye was Monday is "burger day" and that's all they serve as it's only time they're on the menu. Beef is ground fresh in house and I imagine buns come from the same baking company. I bet it's really good. The piece of homemade coconut cream pie to finish it all off sure was. Dude in the red Camaro should have rolled thru here by now.

I hope to make it back one day soon...see y'all next time

The Coffee Pot
4914 7th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53140
(262) 653-8849

Jo's Cafe
3519 West Silver Spring Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53209
(414) 461-0210

Harry's Diner
2504 Calumet Dr
Sheboygan, WI 53083
(920) 458-5200

Mickey's Dairy Bar
1511 Monroe St
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 256-9476

Delta Diner
14385 County Highway H
Mason, WI 54856
(715) 372-MMMM 

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